Sausage Making – The Finer Points

We take sausage making pretty seriously at our place. This year we made our annual Christmas sausage, Mexican style chorizo, bangers, and a bunch of breakfast sausage. Some tips we have taken to heart follow.

Keep it cold
There is no understating this. Grinding will heat up the meat and fat, stuffing will too. We turn off the heater and grind when the meat has a few ice crystals in it. Fat too but it will just be really firm and not icy. Keeping it cold will mean the difference between a sausage with a mealy texture when cooked vs. a firm sausage with texture. Even emulsified sausages (like bockwurst or bologna) follow this rule. A great way to know you are doing it right is that when holding or blending the mix in your hand it should feel uncomfortably cold.

Fat to Meat
Meat to fat ratios are important. I try and mix the ratio as I grind to limit the amount of hands in bowl time and smushery which starts breaking down the fat. Still you’ll have to mix it, and while you could use a paddle mixer I find that using my hands lets me keep track of how cold it is and helps me look for the right texture. Part way to the completed blend (see below) the color will look right and you need to get your spices mixed in. Too much fat and the sausages are greasy. Not enough and they are dry.

BlendBowl

Strands Mean Stop
This is the tricky part. Blending until things are really fusing makes sausage sausagey. If you have ground it you want it wrapped around the meat and infused in it. Small stringy strands will appear when you pull it apart. There are times when free large chunks of fat are great, but usually this is back fat and you haven’t ground it so that it shows up. Salamis often have some large bits mixed in.

blend

Chill Again
There is a reason we like to do this in November or December. This year it was too warm outdoors to use coolers on our deck, so make sure there is lots of room in the fridge or freezer. When in doubt chill it.

Testing… 1, 2, 3…
Before we stuff the casings we always fry off a little of each batch to make sure the meat to fat ratio and seasonings are just right.  This provides you with the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments and it makes for good snacking.

It Takes Two to Tango
You can stuff the sausages on your lonesome, but it is so much easier doing it with someone else. Managing the crank and having someone without meat and fat smeared on their hands is always a lifesaver. Besides, with an audience you can crack off color jokes as the links come out. Doing that by yourself is awkward.

Save Room at the End
Casings are slippery and I have yet to trust a knot at the end. Trying to tie a knot with an inch of casing to spare and fat covered fingers chilled to the bone is an exercise in futility. Casings are cheap.

Prick it, Prick it Good
After links are all done prick them. Liberally. Both sides. Air inside a sausage will make the casing nasty and brittle when cooked. If you keep it cold enough you won’t have any leakers. These little holes seem to seal themselves up when things are done so don’t worry about fat squirting out of your creations when cooking them. You can use a pin or corn cob holder, but this little tool makes things much easier.
CasingPricker

Pellicule or Pellicle
Let those doggies rest a bit. Hanging them outside if it isn’t freezing but is in the high 30’s is perfect. In a fridge you’ll need to rotate them a bit. There are two things happening but the outcome is the same. Firstly your spice blend has a chance to permeate the meat. If you have used oats or rusk like we do in bangers it gives it a chance to soak in. Secondly the links will develop a tacky, not exactly dry, surface. This is a film forming that reseals the whole thing. When I first started making sausages I ignored this step and always had links that leaked in the pan and the flavors were still not blended as well as I liked. Pellicule by the way is old French, and since the guy that introduced me to this was a Jane Grigson fan I use his pronunciation. Plus it is fun to say. Pellicule, pellicule, pellicule!

HangingOutside

Cleanup
Hopefully you have a dog or chickens to handle the messy bits left in your grinder and stuffer. We cannot overstate this – wipe everything down with paper towels before washing. The fat left over is wasted going down the sink and the ensuing plumber bill will swear you off sausage forever!

Cooking
I’ll go out on a limb here and tell you how we do it. I’m sure everyone has a particular way but we follow these rules explicitly. On a medium flame we add the sausages and a couple of tablespoons or so of water (don’t go over 1/4 cup) and cover. We usually give them one turn then pull off the cover and let the liquid cook off. Lower the heat and brown to your liking. No pricking. No forking. Those little guys will squirt all over and you’ll end up with a dry package. Bangers are especially susceptible – that’s why they call them bangers. They will pop in a pan if not treated with a little respect, and if that happens you will have to clean up the mess and not us.

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Someday I hope to make the perfect meatless sausage for my vegetarian friends. I feel so sad for them missing out on the tastiest thing we put on our plates.

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About M. Agriculteur

Designer, motorcycle junkie, traveler, wanna-be iron butter (more butt than iron), builder, foodie, farmer wanna-be.
This entry was posted in Charcuterie, Cooking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Sausage Making – The Finer Points

  1. Thank you for all the pointers! We have yet to try our hand at sausage making, mainly an issue with time, plus the fact that the butcher who did our pigs last summer has provided us with the most amazing sausages we have EVER had. He may have ruined our sausage making ambitions. That said, we’re awfully thrifty types and sausage does cost extra when he makes it…

    We make some terribly macabre jokes when butchering chickens, and I can see from the video that sausage stuffing really begs for ribaldry…

    Pellicule is a lovely word. Do you know the french tongue twister about sausages? Try this video – number 5, about 50 seconds in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqE2-6P3b0s

    • Six dried sausages! LOL. Cured sausage is on my wish list to try. Hey if you have great sausage without the hassle there is nothing wrong with that. It takes us about 6 hours to make 15-20 lbs of sausage that nearly lasts the year. If both of us were getting paid minimum wage it makes for some spendy links. That said, I trust no one with the family recipe for x-mas sausage so in for 5 lbs is as easy as 20.

  2. DM says:

    What a practical blog post…really enjoyed the video clips…and especially LOVED the taste of those little breakfast chubs we had this morning for breakfast. I am honored that you shared some of them with little old me…AND the rendered lard, which I just ran out of the day before the package arrived. Danka. ;- DM

  3. farmerkhaiti says:

    Can I ask if you use a hand grinder or do mechanized? I feel my rotator cuff ache when I think about attempting grinding pork for sausage again, but it is sooooo delicious and this post really is making me look at our 4 big pigs and think…soon….I want to try whole hog scalding this time, if you have any pointers let me know. I’m proud to say I did scrape out intestines to make my own casings the first time we butchered our own, that was pretty fascinating. I want to use every bit possible, and will be braver next time (I cried when I tried to scald and dehair an ear once.)

    • I used to use a hand crank but now have an electric. There is no comparison! For scalding my butcher teacher uses a pulley with a line to the hog on a gimble and a 55gallon drum. Make sure you have a cleat somewhere to hold the carcass in place while scraping. Or you could just skin them. No cracklings though.

      • farmerkhaiti says:

        thanks for your information! i think we may be able to use the tractor bucket with a gambrel attached with chains- we did that with our calf, but a pig is so much longer. Hmmm, and we could possibly an old metal bathtub with a fire below for the scalder. Or we may just continue to have our butcher skin for us. It’s just that I really want to try a skin on roast after reading about them in the english cookbooks, and curing hams with the skin intact, old school proscuitto style.

      • One word. Cracklings. Ok two words… PORCHETTA. It is beyond yummy. Maybe just keep the skin on around the shoulder. I’ve scraped trotters and skin them now because of the hassle.

      • farmerkhaiti says:

        now is porkchetta a skin-on loin roast? Just the name makes me want it, no matter what it is.

      • Oh farmerkhaiti!
        Just once make this for yourselves. We fret and discuss options for pork shoulder every year thinking of this dish. Whenever we say “porchetta” it is followed by a knowing sigh and a long day-dreamy gaze into the distance. We actually had the recipe that follows in NYC. Her tiny cafe has had only 6 seats and is filled with such a lovely aroma that it made us draw a startled breath.

        http://www.porchettanyc.com/recipe.html

        >

      • farmerkhaiti says:

        YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!! Love it!

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